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Fighting the Good Fight to Finish the Race

Thursday, April 05, 2018 by Dan Brndjar - ACE 24, Atlanta

Dan Brndjar Marathon

Twenty miles down, three hours into the race, and my left quad starts cramping. This is really hard. This hurts. Why did I sign up for this? How am I going to finish? With these thoughts racing through my mind, a runner passes by me uttering words of encouragement: “This is what we trained for! We can do it! Just keep going!” Spectators on the sidewalk enthusiastically cheer, urging us onward. The negative thoughts start to pass away. Here we go. For the kids. I have to finish. Upon crossing the finish line of the Georgia Marathon little over an hour later, several ACE friends immediately swarm around me, congratulating me on finishing. Limping over to the ACE tent, I began to celebrate with the 40 other teachers who had all come to Atlanta from across the country to run, cheer, and fundraise for St. Peter Claver Regional Catholic School. Time passed, and the pain subsided amid good food and great fellowship. Over these next few hours, I began to reflect on all that had just happened. I began to see that this marathon experience really is a great metaphor for my first year in ACE.

24 atlanta brndjarThis is really hard. This hurts. ACE is hard—probably the hardest thing I have ever done. It’s exhausting. When it’s Wednesday morning and the rest of the week is still looming ahead like a massive hill, you feel like you have nothing left to give to your students. But it’s worth it because the kids are worth it. And the feeling of pure joy that you get when Michael gets that answer right after all the extra help after school or when Shay pops into your room and excitedly exclaims that she received her college acceptance letter are worth it.  Like the view when you finally reach the top, these joyful moments certainly make all the pain and discomfort worthwhile. And you are pushed to grow and find strength in faith that you never knew you had. So we keep running, one step at a time.

Why did I sign up for this? Marathon day was not the first time I asked myself this question over the past few months. However, I think the answer for choosing to teach and run are really the same. In seeing the marathon runners, I had a vision of what I wanted to be and a sense of accomplishment in which I wanted to share. In signing up for ACE, I had visions of past teachers, role models, whom I wished to emulate. Furthermore, I wanted to share in the joy of and accomplishments of my students. In the end, I think it was fitting that the reason for running this particular marathon, was the same reason for why we chose ACE in the first place—to make a difference for the kids.

"I began to see that this marathon experience really is a great metaphor for my first year in ACE."

How am I going to finish? 20 miles in, I did not think I could finish. I knew that I had trained hard for this moment, and I was determined to finish, but without all the support and encouragement from others along the way, I would not have made it. It has been the same way in ACE. With the support from the ACE staff, all of my awesome community members, other ACE teachers who have become some of my best friends, I know I am not in this race alone. Finally, and most importantly, like those awful tasting energy gels, the bananas, and the sips of Powerade, God continues to provide and sustain me in this race again and again. Without His constant grace and my relationship with Him, crossing this finish line successfully would be impossible.

In the end, as I look back on the events of the past week, I can’t imagine not signing up for both these races. The feeling and sense of accomplishment after crossing the finish line and joys along the way have been so worth it. So, as we continue to run this school year, I ask you to pray for us teachers and our students so that we can eventually echo the words of St. Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Read the 2018 ACE Marathon Recap

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